Friday, February 28

Halftime Signatures: UCLA drum major marches into his last USC rivalry matchup

Adam Fletcher, a fifth-year electrical engineering student, is one of the UCLA marching band’s four drum majors. As a band member, he experienced the Bruin’s loss against USC in 2011 and participated in the Trojan War parody with UC Berkley's marching band in 2015. (photo illustration by Owen Emerson and Daniel Alcazar/Daily Bruin senior staff)

In anticipation of the UCLA-USC football matchup Thanksgiving weekend, Daily Bruin A&E features members of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. Today’s installment profiles Adam Fletcher, a fifth-year electrical engineering student and drum major.

Trojan fans laughed as an intimidated Adam Fletcher and the rest of UCLA’s marching band carried their instruments out of USC’s Coliseum following a 50-0 loss for the Bruins in 2011.

Four years later, Fletcher is no longer intimidated by the Coliseum.

“It (was) a rough experience, but seeing it improve has been great,” said Fletcher, a fifth-year electrical engineering student and one of the band’s four drum majors.

Fletcher said he takes pride in that fans have high expectations and respect for the band he has conducted for over two years.

“We play so much music that we become a part of the spirit,” Fletcher said. “Whenever there’s no band, whenever the band’s gone, people notice.”

Fletcher said the Den can expect a strong performance from UCLA’s marching band for Saturday’s rivalry game at the Coliseum, free of gimmicks like war re-enactments or Halloween costumes.

The band’s most recent visit to the Coliseum was in 2013 when the Bruins defeated the Trojans. Fletcher said it was gratifying to provide the soundtrack for the large turnout of UCLA fans supporting their team through the rainy conditions.

But win or lose, the marching band is always faced with hostility when playing at the Coliseum.

Fletcher said in 2013, USC fans threw a beer bottle at the band. The marching band ignored the bottle and kept walking into the rally as if nothing had happened.

“It’s always interesting being in a very hostile environment where you’re not welcome,” Fletcher said. “There are so many more Trojan fans around. In such a good rivalry, such a big rivalry, being a member of the band – being there – is an experience in itself.”

The best way to respond to the hostility, Fletcher said, is to not respond at all. When band members are in uniform, they are representing UCLA.

In October, UCLA’s band combined with Cal’s band at the UCLA-UC Berkeley football game for an indirect response to USC fans’ jeers. The two bands put on a nontraditional show in which they performed a skit for the fans.

Parodies of the Trojan War are a four-year tradition for UCLA’s marching band, and this year, Cal’s band decided to get involved.

Clad in white togas and red and gold tunics, the bands collided to re-enact the Trojan War, complete with a life-size Trojan horse. Band members playing the part of the Trojans fell to the ground as the horse entered the gates, signaling the downfall of Troy.

The re-enactment marked the first combined show between UCLA and UC Berkeley’s marching bands. While neither band directly mentioned USC, Fletcher said it was amusing to put the show in the context of the UCLA-USC rivalry.

“It’s just fun to poke at the fact that (USC’s) mascot is on the losing side of a very historic war,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher’s conducting style enhances band spirit, said Mackenzie Dimler, a fourth-year music education student and tuba section leader.

Dimler said Fletcher is the hype-man.

“We sound better, we’re louder, we’re more excited to play because (Fletcher) is more exciting to watch when he conducts,” Dimler said.

Dimler said through his energetic leadership approach, Fletcher has taught him how to keep a musical ensemble energetic, something Dimler will take with him as he pursues a career in music education.

Because they are new to the job compared to Fletcher, other drum majors like Christian Youngers turn to Fletcher for guidance.

“He’s almost like the drum major section leader,” said Youngers, a fourth-year computer science student.

While it may seem Fletcher always has the answers, Youngers said Fletcher makes mistakes. He lets the rest of the band know of his mistakes by tapping his head, a motion the rest of the band has adopted for its own errors.

“It’s really funny because anytime anybody messes up, we always do the same thing,” Youngers said. “This is like the Adam, ‘Oh, I messed up. My bad.'”

Scores aside, Fletcher feels confident leading the band into what could be his last USC game as a band member.

“When comparing the USC marching band and the UCLA marching band, you’ll clearly see which one has more talent,” Fletcher said. “It’s fun to see both bands perform one after the other, and it’s cool to see how differently we operate. We’re two very different bands.”

When it comes to leading his bandmates, Fletcher said standing on the podium conducting the UCLA marching band, which he described as one of the most elite marching bands in the country, is an honor.

“To be able to lead that, to be able to stand in front and represent the band – represent the school – is an amazing experience,” Fletcher said.

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